When Marleen Colosimo, 71, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, she felt paralyzed by the “what-ifs” and the uncertainty of a life-threatening disease.

Marleen, a retired special education teacher, said dealing with her GBM diagnosis was more difficult in the beginning. She feared daily tasks such as driving and was afraid to hope for the future. Over time, as she moved through treatment, she and her friend Penny Bianco became more comfortable. They began to embrace the present moment.

“As long as we stayed in each day and enjoyed every day, we got used to the routine of everything,” Penny said.

Marleen and Penny also own a cabin in the Adirondacks, where they hike and kayak. They bought the cabin a few years ago before Penny retired as a speech therapist. Owning a cabin in the mountains was one of their dreams.

“When you walk in the cabin door, it’s all wood,” said Marleen, who used to refinish antiques. “The inside is knotty pine. The ceiling is knotty pine. The loft is knotty pine. It’s lovely. I just love wood.”


We’re very focused all the time because every minute counts. You don’t take life for granted anymore.

Despite Marleen’s GBM diagnosis, they said, they moved forward by recommitting to the plan they had all along: to enjoy their retirement, to spend time at their cabin and to vacation in Florida over the winter. They recently made reservations to rent a house in Crystal River, Florida, for six weeks.

“We made ourselves do what we said we were going to do,” Penny said.

In the summer of 2016, they went to Montana to visit Marleen’s son and granddaughter, and last fall, they traveled to North Carolina to spend time with her daughter.

Penny said she and Marleen have always had a full life, and they didn’t allow cancer to change that. Although they’ve become more comfortable living with the uncertainty of cancer, they still get anxious and scared at times, especially before routine scans. However, their perspective on life has changed.

“We’re very focused all the time because every minute counts,” Penny said. “You don’t take life for granted anymore.”